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Sailor Possibly Being Bought Out

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#41 Mongoosey

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Posted 05 July 2020 - 16:58

I don't doubt the decline in sales of writing instruments due to the current technological age,

 

But Goulet pens wouldn't be doing so well if there wasn't some spark out there to use them.

 

With careful marketing you can inspire people to write.  It is indeed a truly unique experience that is its own pleasure.

 

But I also think marketing can use the present wave of Going Green, which is more valid than ever,

 

But I think to take advantage of that window of opportunity companies need to work to make an optimal full sized pen at its most affordable instead of drawing consumers into a ladder of products where you only reach that full size by buying their more/most expensive products.  I don't think fountain pen companies do a good job of that.



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#42 ENewton

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Posted 05 July 2020 - 18:00

 

 

But Goulet pens wouldn't be doing so well if there wasn't some spark out there to use them.

 

...

 

But I think to take advantage of that window of opportunity companies need to work to make an optimal full sized pen at its most affordable instead of drawing consumers into a ladder of products where you only reach that full size by buying their more/most expensive products.  I don't think fountain pen companies do a good job of that.

 

I wonder whether the success of a company like Goulet is due, in significant part, to "drawing consumers into a ladder of products."  Goulet profits from the idea that one should begin with a cheap "starter pen," proceed to a "next-level" pen, and so on.  By the time one gets to a really good pen, one has spent far more money than if one had bought that nicer pen at the outset.

 

I own three Sailor pens--one with a fine nib for marginalia, one with a medium nib for most of the writing that I do, and one with a broad nib for those few occasions when I need a thicker line (like the title page of a folded book that I construct with my granddaughter).  Those pens evoke in me the desire to use them on a regular basis; the fine and medium are inked at the moment.  What they do not do is leave me with unfulfilled needs I can satisfy only by making yet another purchase.  I am similarly happily sated with my three bottles of Sailor ink.  Which makes me a terrible consumer.



#43 Mongoosey

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Posted 05 July 2020 - 19:41

 

I wonder whether the success of a company like Goulet is due, in significant part, to "drawing consumers into a ladder of products."  Goulet profits from the idea that one should begin with a cheap "starter pen," proceed to a "next-level" pen, and so on.  By the time one gets to a really good pen, one has spent far more money than if one had bought that nicer pen at the outset.

 

I own three Sailor pens--one with a fine nib for marginalia, one with a medium nib for most of the writing that I do, and one with a broad nib for those few occasions when I need a thicker line (like the title page of a folded book that I construct with my granddaughter).  Those pens evoke in me the desire to use them on a regular basis; the fine and medium are inked at the moment.  What they do not do is leave me with unfulfilled needs I can satisfy only by making yet another purchase.  I am similarly happily sated with my three bottles of Sailor ink.  Which makes me a terrible consumer.

 

It's a good point.

 

I'm not saying eliminate the ladder of products, but for to offer something more at the lower tiers.

 

For example, back in the day the full sized Parker 51 was offered with a gold and steel nib.  Parker didn't only offer the steel nib in only a smaller version and make people have to spend extra money on a gold nib version to get the full sized Parker 51. There was still a ladder, a lot of people stepped up the ladder, but to those who didn't need to there was still a great full sized affordable pen available.

 

Where as today I feel like with many companies I have to purchase a more expensive Gold nib version just to get a full sized pen.

 

On a similar note, I've had great luck with Pilot steel nibs, but Pilot refuses to produce a full sized pen for that nib, save for maybe the Kakuno.  The Prera is nice, but it's still a pocket pen you have to post, and the Explorer was some attempt, but that section is still quite narrow and I've had QC problems with that pen that forced me to give up on it.

 

And when it comes to sailor, there's nothing on the radar unless you shop overseas and get the Lecoule, which is very small, or maybe the ProColor, also very small.

 

I like my expensive gold nib pens, but I also have had just as good experiences with affordable steel nibbed "starter" pens.  So good, in fact, that I have returned or sold gold nibbed pens because they didn't leave me near as satisfied. 

 

And Sailor has failed to capitalize in this affordable price range where there is significant potential in the market, as evidence by TWSBI despite their cracking reputation.  



#44 max dog

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Posted 05 July 2020 - 19:43

I've considered Sailor a few times given how some rave of their nibs, but nothing they offer appeal to me enough to get a Sailor over their competitors.  In the higher end, ie Sailor KOP, the MB 149 appeal to me more.  It is more famous, and the Sailor KOP just doesn't have it's own identity.  It looks like a MB 149 wannabe.  And now with the 149 available with a special edition flex nib, the gap is bigger.   Sorry dont mean to offend Sailor fans but that's the impression I get when I look at the KOP.  A 149 without the integrated piston filler and without the 149's legendary status, and yet costs as much. And then in the lower end, the Pilot Custom 74 (got two) and Platinum 3776 are affordable and sport nice soft nibs.  Sailor 1911 nibs are rigid in comparison.  Perhaps if Sailor came out with a higher end line with it's own identity instead of resembling a Montblanc Meisterstuck and more variety in the lower end and soft or flexy FA kind of nibs, they would have more traction.  Just my 2 cents.

Edited by max dog, 05 July 2020 - 20:15.


#45 TSherbs

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Posted 05 July 2020 - 20:16

I don't doubt the decline in sales of writing instruments due to the current technological age,

 

But Goulet pens wouldn't be doing so well if there wasn't some spark out there to use them.

 

With careful marketing you can inspire people to write.  It is indeed a truly unique experience that is its own pleasure.

 

But I also think marketing can use the present wave of Going Green, which is more valid than ever,

 

But I think to take advantage of that window of opportunity companies need to work to make an optimal full sized pen at its most affordable instead of drawing consumers into a ladder of products where you only reach that full size by buying their more/most expensive products.  I don't think fountain pen companies do a good job of that.

 

But Sailor has said (allegedly) that the market for their pens has become saturated. There is always the problem of consumer trends and demand for a product. I worry about market saturation. 



#46 A Smug Dill

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Posted 06 July 2020 - 01:18

I'm not saying eliminate the ladder of products, but for to offer something more at the lower tiers. _...‹snip›... There was still a ladder, a lot of people stepped up the ladder, but to those who didn't need to there was still a great full sized affordable pen available.
 
Where as today I feel like with many companies I have to purchase a more expensive Gold nib version just to get a full sized pen.


Repeat custom is the key to commercial growth, especially these days. Whether the focus is on micro-transactions (of ≤$5) by selling content on Google Play (Music, Movies, Books, etc.) and in-app purchases, cheap(er) products that just come in ever-increasing variety in a few product lines (e.g. Diamine inks, PenBBS pens), or special/limited edition 'luxury' and/or 'collectable' items for relatively affluent consumers, the objective would still be to squeeze as much in discretionary spending out of punters to the tune of hundreds or thousands of dollars per year per individual. As opposed to needs that can be satisfied with a single purchase, it's better to use people's wants and preferences as the buttons to push, so that they (as only they can) push their own boundaries of what is deemed affordable.

If the market is saturated, and the number of individuals in broader society interested in using fountain pens to write is shrinking, then even if the cheaper products have the same profit margins as the 'top shelf' offerings, it's still better to focus on the small hobbyist subset, and sell them another five thousand pens this year instead of trying to sell another fifty thousand school pens and affordable pens for the same financial reward. 
 

I've considered Sailor a few times given how some rave of their nibs, but nothing they offer appeal to me enough to get a Sailor over their competitors.  In the higher end, ie Sailor KOP, the MB 149 appeal to me more.  It is more famous, and the Sailor KOP just doesn't have it's own identity.  It looks like a MB 149 wannabe.  And now with the 149 available with a special edition flex nib, the gap is bigger. _...‹snip›... Just my 2 cents.


I don't know. Our first Sailor is a kaga maki-e hagi-ni-cho (bush clover and butterfly) in the King Of Pen form factor. I personally don't enjoy writing with it, but it was a present for my wife and she loves it! I've taken very little interest in Montblanc at all, so I'm not sure if it offers anything of the sort in the 149 model or form factor; my wife is a big fan of Le Petit Prince as literature, but Montblanc's pens and inks under that banner somehow fail to appeal to her as much. As for nibs, I'm always in awe of the Naginata specialty nibs — including the majority that Sailor has discontinued producing — and again, I don't know if Montblanc offers (or offered) anything comparable.

And, quite frankly, I've never met any (Chinese-speaking) Chinese fountain pen user who purported that he/she prefers Montblanc over Sailor because of product quality and/or operational performance. Most Chinese I have met in my lifetime have never heard of Sailor, but Montblanc is highly recognisable, and so they buy a Montblanc or five and consider themselves fans. Sailor has a marketing deficiency and an image problem, as far as being a status symbol goes, but not one due being a Montblanc wannabe or copycat.
As always:  1. Implicit in everything and every instance I write on FPN is the invitation for you to judge me as a peer in the community. I think it's only due respect to take each other's written word in online discussion seriously and apply critical judgment.  2. I do not presume to judge for you what is right, correct or valid. If I make a claim, or refute a statement in a thread, and link to references and other information in support, I beseech you to review and consider those, and judge for yourself. I may be wrong. My position or say-so carries no more weight than anyone else's here, and external parties can speak for themselves with what they have published.  3. I endeavour to be frank and truthful in what I write, show or otherwise present when I relate my first-hand experiences that are not independently verifiable. If it is something you can test for yourself and see the results, I entreat you to do so.

#47 Intensity

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Posted 06 July 2020 - 01:45

I've considered Sailor a few times given how some rave of their nibs, but nothing they offer appeal to me enough to get a Sailor over their competitors.  In the higher end, ie Sailor KOP, the MB 149 appeal to me more.  It is more famous, and the Sailor KOP just doesn't have it's own identity.  It looks like a MB 149 wannabe.  And now with the 149 available with a special edition flex nib, the gap is bigger.   Sorry dont mean to offend Sailor fans but that's the impression I get when I look at the KOP.  A 149 without the integrated piston filler and without the 149's legendary status, and yet costs as much. And then in the lower end, the Pilot Custom 74 (got two) and Platinum 3776 are affordable and sport nice soft nibs.  Sailor 1911 nibs are rigid in comparison.  Perhaps if Sailor came out with a higher end line with it's own identity instead of resembling a Montblanc Meisterstuck and more variety in the lower end and soft or flexy FA kind of nibs, they would have more traction.  Just my 2 cents.

 

I have a Montblanc 146 and a Montblanc 149.  I also have multiple Sailor Pro Gear and Pro Gear Slim pens, though no KoP yet--simply not a fan of such a thick section, which my Montblanc 149 proved.  Sailor pens are not like Montblanc pens, they feel totally different.  It seems like you are biased to prefer Montblanc to call a pen a 149 wannabe just because it's similar size and perhaps you are more familiar with the brand.  Sailor is highly respected for their nibs, and there's not much in common between 149 and a KoP in terms of how they feel in hand and their nibs for writing.  I am a big fan of all of those pen lines, but my 146 is nothing like Pro Gear, and I would never confuse them in a blind test.  Sailor's 21K nibs are quite soft and springy.  They are not FLEX nibs, but they feel really soft/dampened on paper.  They feel delicate, with very precise grinds that are smooth but with perfect feedback. In contrast both my 146 and 149 nibs are pretty nail-like and not delicate, I feel like I can lean on them more easily and not worry about misaligning anything.  My 149 is a mid 1980s model, and my 146 is from early 1990s.

 

(Personally I don't care for Platinum 3776 nib feel and so don't have any Platinum pens except for a single Preppie that's permanently filled with red ink.  Sailor nibs are wonderful.  Also the only Pilot pens I like are Vanishing Point and the Decimo variant.)


Edited by Intensity, 06 July 2020 - 01:54.

“I admit it, I'm surprised that fountain pens are a hobby. ... it's a bit like stumbling into a fork convention - when you've used a fork all your life.” 


#48 max dog

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Posted 06 July 2020 - 03:36

I don't mean to elevate MB over Sailor or necessarily compare the two, as they are different, and which is better is purely subjective.  It seems Sailor will continue to appeal to their loyal fan base, but perhaps the reason they are in the dire situation they find themselves in is that they have trouble appealing to new customer's or in other words growing their fan base.  In an extremely niche fountain pen market, and with a weak global economy, if you have trouble expanding your customer base beyond the existing base, it could be problematic for survival.  In the lower end, Pilot and Platinum are more appealing I think, and in the higher end, Montblanc, Pelikan are in more peoples radar.  Sailor needs to do better in the appeal factor of their product.  



#49 Intensity

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Posted 06 July 2020 - 04:20

It's likely a a cultural Japanese issue.  They might do promotional marketing but in Japan only.  Any marketing outside Japan falls to retailers who want to sell Sailor goods.  I've visited Japan once, last year, and it was an amazing experience, I loved it and can't wait to go back.  I've also learned a lot about the Japanese culture and the quirks of how they approach international business and treating outsiders in general.  They were a "closed" country until relatively recently, and there are pluses and minuses to the resulting attitudes.

 

Montblanc is a European brand, and most of the marketing is done internationally, with brand "boutiques" in [probably] every country, located in high-end shopping areas.  Difficult to miss, and even those who couldn't care less about fountain pens might have seen Montblanc stores around.


“I admit it, I'm surprised that fountain pens are a hobby. ... it's a bit like stumbling into a fork convention - when you've used a fork all your life.” 


#50 basterma

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Posted 06 July 2020 - 04:42

I think it is also about outreach. I doubt the people at Sailor have the language skills to create something like the Pelikan Hubs or the mini-programs Pelikan uses within WeChat in China for example. I can contact the Pelikan repairman in China on weChat if I need to. Mon tBlanc and other brands have a presence on WeChat as well. Sailor has none, and that also robs them of a huge channel for getting people to hear about their products. I think many companies are successful now because they offer  the distributor a platform for the product, not just the product. If you are a local distributor, you can leverage that platform to help sell the product. It's not the old factory to distributor model where the distributor has to market the product.  Sailor has not changed their model in China, and they expect the distributor to create the marketing and buzz. I think that may be the case in other markets as well. On another note, I wonder why Tombow won't buy them?



#51 Intensity

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Posted 06 July 2020 - 04:54

That's what I meant: the focus on international business is minimal.  You will find more people who know English and other languages in Tokyo, but even there it's limited.  A lot of broken English in printed material and on signs, but no market for good English translators, because it's just not important.  The translations are there as a bare minimum of "well, we've tried, now you know the minimum needed rules" and for publicity, to make a company look "more international".  I'm not saying any of this in a derogatory manner, that's just how things are.  Personally I think as "outsiders" we mostly just need to accept it.  Globalization is happening even to Japan, and I'm sad about the time when it will lose a lot of its cultural identity to globalization.  It was an amazing experience in Sendai to see people completely unconcerned about leaving their personal belongings outside without fear of them being stolen.  One guy in a business suit left his briefcase and a stack of papers next to me on a bench at the central mall area and walked off into a fast food restaurant for a couple minutes.  I thought I was on hidden camera for a minute, and it was a prank to test if I would take anything, but I remembered that I was in Japan.  Even in Tokyo--a huge city--leaving your umbrella outside every store (unattended) is the norm, and everything is very clean.


Edited by Intensity, 06 July 2020 - 04:56.

“I admit it, I'm surprised that fountain pens are a hobby. ... it's a bit like stumbling into a fork convention - when you've used a fork all your life.” 


#52 TSherbs

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Posted 06 July 2020 - 10:37

.

How could such a mindset produce people who can market something to foreigners? No chance.


Well, Toyota, Subaru, Sony, Pilot, Mitsubishi, Toshiba, Nintendo, and Honda (and others) are household names in the USA. Let's not go too far in criticizing Japanese interest in marketing to foreigners.

#53 mke

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Posted 06 July 2020 - 12:53

> Toyota, Subaru, Sony, Pilot, Mitsubishi, Toshiba, Nintendo

Isn't that the same Pilot about which it is said they don't care what their daughter companies abroad are proposing? Just curious. 🤔 If true that would be a real special marketing to foreigners.
We saw the marketing capability of Pilot at their 100th anniversary.

#54 gyasko

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Posted 06 July 2020 - 14:15

Why do Americans rush to make cultural value judgements about Japan?

Recall that the Sailor is not the first fountain pen maker to run into trouble. Are we to explain the foundering of the American Big Four with a discussion of American character flaws such as hubris, tendencies toward hucksterism, pollyanna-ism, insularity & monolinguism?

#55 Karmachanic

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Posted 06 July 2020 - 14:47

Why do Americans rush to make cultural value judgements about Japan?
 

Here's an answer from my home culture. Because when you're big you're large.


"Simplicate and add Lightness."


#56 TSherbs

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Posted 06 July 2020 - 14:55

Why do Americans rush to make cultural value judgements about Japan?
 

 

I'm not sure that it is "Americans" doing this here on this thread.

 

I am, thus far, the only one who identified as American. And I am cautioning against the judgments. 



#57 TSherbs

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Posted 06 July 2020 - 14:59

> Toyota, Subaru, Sony, Pilot, Mitsubishi, Toshiba, Nintendo

Isn't that the same Pilot about which it is said they don't care what their daughter companies abroad are proposing? Just curious. If true that would be a real special marketing to foreigners.
We saw the marketing capability of Pilot at their 100th anniversary.

 

Sorry, but I don't understand your point in this reply.

 

I was addressing your claim that Japanese business are not interested in learning English to market to the west. I suggested that your point did not seem to be borne out by all the Japanese success certain makers have had in the USA (and I named some of the very famous brands here that sell very well and market their products in English). 

 

And your reply here says what?



#58 Mongoosey

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Posted 06 July 2020 - 17:21

If the market is saturated, and the number of individuals in broader society interested in using fountain pens to write is shrinking, then even if the cheaper products have the same profit margins as the 'top shelf' offerings, it's still better to focus on the small hobbyist subset, and sell them another five thousand pens this year instead of trying to sell another fifty thousand school pens and affordable pens for the same financial reward. 
 

 

Why not do both?  Having Pilot Metro's didn't make me not want to get Pilot Custom Gold nib pens, but made we want to have both!

 

I think the hobbyists who want to climb the ladder to the top shelf offerings are going to do so anyways.

 

And if Sailor could make a solid affordable option it will attract those who don't want to climb the ladder.

 

Is the fountain pen market shrinking? I think there's a spark that can grow, but like I've said before, you'd have to expand into the market to people who wouldn't otherwise purchase them, and that requires making a quality affordable pen with excellent QC.



#59 Intensity

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Posted 06 July 2020 - 17:46

Why do Americans rush to make cultural value judgements about Japan?

Recall that the Sailor is not the first fountain pen maker to run into trouble. Are we to explain the foundering of the American Big Four with a discussion of American character flaws such as hubris, tendencies toward hucksterism, pollyanna-ism, insularity & monolinguism?

 

Why do you assume we are all "Americans"?  Why do you assume that we rush to cultural value "judgements"?  I have multiple good friends and a relative living in Japan, and I've done a fair share of reading about it and its culture, and nothing of what I said is not the unbiased reality.  It has nothing to do with judgements.  Mke actually lives in Japan.  I think it's more "American" to just jump to conclusions nowadays and label everyone judgemental without looking carefully at what is said and considering the context.


“I admit it, I'm surprised that fountain pens are a hobby. ... it's a bit like stumbling into a fork convention - when you've used a fork all your life.” 


#60 A Smug Dill

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Posted 06 July 2020 - 17:50

Why not do both?


Doing both concurrently requires investment of more effort, resources and funds, and may also carry more commercial risk. Companies don't have infinite resources and unbounded appetite for risk, so it makes sense to prioritise and focus on some part of one's business portfolio, don't you think? Besides, I'm not arguing for not offering cheap(er) pens for "beginners", but simply not catering to certain wants that are not common in the company's primary target market (in Japan domestically, and maybe Southeast Asia more broadly) — and it just so happens that is one of your personal wants that I see the sense for Sailor to give a low priority or no attention at all, especially when it's already purportedly struggling. Sailor already sells HiAce Neo, Profit Junior (and variants), Lecoule and desk pen models on the cheap end of the spectrum; it's just that you aren't happy with those offerings.

I think the hobbyists who want to climb the ladder to the top shelf offerings are going to do so anyways.


My point is that satisfied consumers (who then feel no more compulsion to acquire and consume more) don't make very "good" customers commercially. If the argument is for designing, producing and offering pen models that are "affordable", ticks most boxes for customers in a particular target group, but also falls just short of being fully satisfying, in order to entice them to start spending more than just "affordable" amounts on pens, then I'd see the sense in it. We're not talking what Sailor could do for customers out of goodwill or make a better world, but how it can leverage the wants of hobbyists or the everyman to achieve what the business wants, so that the company is the bigger winner with customer satisfaction as a necessary byproduct.

And if Sailor could make a solid affordable option it will attract those who don't want to climb the ladder.


I don't see the point in that. There is little reward in working and investing to capture what "affordable" spend from those who won't be converted into ladder-climbing enthusiasts.

Is the fountain pen market shrinking? I think there's a spark that can grow, but like I've said before, you'd have to expand into the market to people who wouldn't otherwise purchase them, and that requires making a quality affordable pen with excellent QC.


As always:  1. Implicit in everything and every instance I write on FPN is the invitation for you to judge me as a peer in the community. I think it's only due respect to take each other's written word in online discussion seriously and apply critical judgment.  2. I do not presume to judge for you what is right, correct or valid. If I make a claim, or refute a statement in a thread, and link to references and other information in support, I beseech you to review and consider those, and judge for yourself. I may be wrong. My position or say-so carries no more weight than anyone else's here, and external parties can speak for themselves with what they have published.  3. I endeavour to be frank and truthful in what I write, show or otherwise present when I relate my first-hand experiences that are not independently verifiable. If it is something you can test for yourself and see the results, I entreat you to do so.





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